Steve Lunetta: Earl and the NFL

Uncle Earl and I were working on my irrigation system the other day. Now that the drought is broken and the local water companies have merged, I can be expecting lower water rates, right?

Or am I wrong about that?

Anyhow, Trish wants a lawn so her wish is my command. Earl was watching me glue some PVC pipes together when things took an odd turn.

“Unc, we’d better get finished up with this last water line. I want to get in and watch the Raider game.”

Uncle Earl raised his eyebrows. “What would you want to do that for? Some of those NFL players are just ungrateful, spoiled, anti-American haters that I wouldn’t waste one minute with.”

“Whoa, Earl,” I responded. “It’s just football. Those guys taking a knee are trying to draw attention to a social problem in the U.S. that has gone long-ignored. The African-American community feels that it is discriminated against by law enforcement.”

Earl was warming up. “Steven, its not just football. To many, standing for the national anthem and turning towards our flag before a sporting event reminds us all of the sacrifice many have made in service to our country. It shows respect. It shows honor.”

“But, Earl,” I interjected, “the right to free speech is important as well. Don’t these athletes have a right to express themselves in any way they want? I mean, isn’t this democratic?”

“My boy, no one is saying that players cannot express what they think is right.” Unc was ramping up. “Have a press conference, work with other athletes to draw attention to the subject, or create a political organization. But when they step onto the football field, they have stepped into the NFL’s domain.”

“So, really, it’s the NFL’s call as to what happens on the field?” I observed.

Earl went on. “Yep. As a private organization, the NFL could easily deal with the situation. By suspending or fining a kneeling player, it would end what many view as disrespect. But the NFL is making a serious mistake.”

“How so, Unc?”

“Steven, think about who watches football. All those “deplorables” in the fly-over states are ardent football fans. Sundays in America are nearly national holidays for four months a year.

“While liberals on the left and right coasts are sipping lattes and discussing Goethe, everyone else is watching the NFL.”

“I am starting to see, Earl,” I sagely observed.

Earl continued. “The NFL is playing with fire. In the interest of being politically correct, it is taking a stand that is diametrically opposed to its customer base.

“While President Trump’s statement was, as usual, bombastic and undiplomatic, he was right. If the NFL cracked down on this behavior, it would be protecting the game and its brand.”

I asked, “Isn’t this really a conflict between two points of view and, while neither is inherently wrong, one has interjected itself upon the other. It’s sort of like saying ‘the sky is blue’ and the other argues, ‘I like fish.’ Neither is wrong, but the venue and format are completely incorrect.”

“Without a doubt! As an alternative, if players wanted to link arms while standing, that would seem to be an excellent way to show respect while also displaying unity. It would avoid much of the ire and anger that is being generated.

“Hiding in the locker room, as the Pittsburgh Steelers did, is not the answer.”

“Linking arms could work” I observed. “But what if the NFL chooses to ignore the customer base that views not standing as an insult to our nation?”

Earl finished by saying, “I’m done with the NFL for a while. I’m going to find other things to do on Sundays and not watch the games. Maybe ride a bike or play with that new grandson. I won’t buy NFL goods nor will I buy products from NFL sponsors. NFL popularity is at an all-time high. Let’s see how popular it is after this debacle.”

And with a final connection of PVC, the new sprinklers were finished and so was Uncle Earl. I just wish we could connect the American people together as easily as this PVC pipe.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and has decided to start following soccer on Sundays. That’s the real “football” anyway. He can be reached at [email protected]

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